Photo: Le Col
As 39-year-old distance cyclist Jasmijn Muller prepares to set off tomorrow on her second attempt at the fastest ever cycle from Lands End to John o’ Groats – current record: 52hrs and 45 minutes for the 841-mile ride – here’s part two of our extended Q&A. (You can read part one here). Jasmijn originally planned her second attempt for July, but poor weather meant she had to postpone her start date until now. All being well, she’ll be off tomorrow!
Good luck Jasmijn, we’re all rooting for you! You can follow Jasmijn’s tracker here.
What do you enjoy about distance cycling?
Cycling, even a record attempt, is an opportunity for me to break away from all of the day to day stresses and focus just on me, the bike and the road. It is that simplicity that appeals to me. I’ve been training with a coach since 2014 and discovered that my overall power is nothing special, but I’m able to keep going at a relatively high percentage of my functional threshold power for quite a while (hence the name of my blog, ‘duracellbunnyonabike’). I function well on just a few hours of sleep (my job as a management consultant sometimes means working odd hours to meet deadlines) and I enjoy the solitude of just me, my bike and the road and the mental challenge of overcoming the inevitable lows.
This is record attempt number 2 – how do you feel about the potential for success vs failure?
Records exist to inspire and to encourage the next person to come along and break the record in turn. The current record hasn’t been challenged since it was set it in 2001. I guess it takes a special kind of person to even consider it, certainly with the way traffic and driving behaviour on UK roads have developed since then. I may not have succeeded upon my first attempt, but I certainly won’t give up trying.
Contrary to what you sometimes hear people yell, I am acutely aware that failure is always an option. With a record attempt like this success is never guaranteed. Failing the first time around has helped me on my journey of self-discovery and development. It has helped me learn about myself and how I deal with failure. It has helped me identify areas for improvement. It has given me additional resilience and drive to succeed on my second attempt, but at the same time given me inner peace to accept that there is more to life than this record attempt and that failing or succeeding to break it doesn’t define who I am or make those people who really matter value me any more or less.
Did you see your 2017 LEJOG attempt as a learning experience?
As disappointing as failing my first LEJOG record attempt was, I found it actually easier than I thought to bounce back from it. Success is great. It is what we all strive for as athletes and what everyone wants to hear about. Success often comes as a result of hard work, sometimes by surprise, but is easy to take it for granted or not query enough why you were successful and what you can learn from it for your next race. Failure is a bitter pill to swallow, but also an opportunity for some brutal self-reflection, to evaluate why things went wrong and what you can do next time to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap again.
What’s your training been like in the run-up to LEJOG?
I don’t have a typical training week. Things have changed compared to what I was doing over winter and as I am working through base, build and peak phases. But as you can see from my Strava, I am not training silly hours or doing too many silly long rides (like last year) that just make me tired and then take a long time to recover from. With my coach’s help, I am trying to be a little more consistent and specific this year with my training. But life does get in the way from time to time, and work deadlines can compromise training a little from time to time.
As you work fulltime, how do you fit your training in?
I work fulltime as a management consultant and the work tends to be project-based and deadline driven. I travel a fair bit too as we work for clients anywhere in the UK. However, my office is also my training room. I can hop from my desk straight on the turbo and back again, so I’m quite flexible with timings.
I can’t really do early morning sessions, or at least not indoors on the turbo, as we live in an upstairs London flat and the neighbours wouldn’t really appreciate that. Similarly, I try not to make any noise after 10pm… well apart from the Zwift record attempt! Longer rides only happen at the weekend. My boss is flexible, but I can’t take the piss by riding all morning on a week day.
How much of your cycling training is done indoors?
Quite a bit of my training in spent indoors, certainly my mid-week sessions. Living in London it’s hard to find a piece of safe, well-maintained road and conditions that are suited to the training intervals my coach sets me. The turbo is a much more effective and efficient way to get quality mid-week training in. I do ride on the road for active recovery sessions and for longer training rides at the weekend.
You’re a 24-hr world champion – what goes through your head riding for 24-hours?
Nothing much to be honest. I try not to let my mind wander (as that’s when accidents happen), and focus on the event and the here and now instead. Similarly, I try not to think too far ahead or dwell on things that didn’t quite go as planned earlier. That’s easier said than done, of course. Last year, I got frustrated having lost 15+ minutes due to a simple puncture only because the car with the wheels happened to just have pulled into a service station for a pee stop at the time (this year we will make sure there will be multiple wheelsets in all cars). But because of that time loss and frustration, I then didn’t stop early enough to put on another layer and probably got too cold, which in turn didn’t help my overall wellbeing.
Do you have any mental strategies for long distance riding?
Like most people who set out on long distance challenges, I break it up into smaller chunks, reward myself for sections completed and then ‘reset’ the counter for the next chunk. I have a few happy memories to tap into when I find myself going through a bad patch as well as a few motivational and instructional mantras to pull myself through. ‘Be The Egg’, derived from the quote that “the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s what you’re made of, not the circumstances”, helps with motivation. ‘Speed is your friend’ helps with my fear of fast descents, especially in cross winds. ‘Become One’ helps me with focus, position on the bike and pedalling style. ‘Keep it going nice and steady’ helps me with pacing. ‘You can do this’, however cheesy it is, helps me up steep hills. These things work for me. Short and relevant thoughts.
I also block out emotions. Some people like to visualise the finish or how they’ll feel upon successfully completing their goal. Particularly when you still have an awful long way to go, that is just torture and distraction. When I did my first 24-hour race at Le Mans, I briefly let my thoughts wander and recalled that charity ride for Cancer Research UK that got me into cycling in the first place and Phil’s [Jasmijn’s colleague who died of cancer] resilience and fight, but it had me in tears, which again isn’t very helpful when you are trying to ride your bike.
I try a little mathematics to test my brain – e.g. by what time I will be able to get to destination x if I can maintain this average speed – and when I get sleepy I start singing out loud. I can’t sing at all, but it keeps me awake.
Will having already attempted LEJOG once help or hinder mentally?
Experience gives confidence. Knowing you have done something before gives you strength and belief you can do it again. I have ridden my route twice, including in April when it was near freezing at night and in June when I rode into a headwind the whole way. Experience also teaches you that all pain is only temporary. It comes and goes in waves. You can feel really bad one moment and then feel completely revived the next – mentally, at least.
Do you do any cross-training, strength training or injury prevention?
I don’t do any strength training, although perhaps I should as I am getting older. I do some hot yoga, bikram or infrared, for flexibility (and useful for heat acclamation before races in the heat) and some core stability training. When I’m not cycling, I enjoy long distance walking, kayaking and scuba diving, but none of these are regular activities.
How will you fuel your LEJOG – do you favour real food on the bike or gels?
After failing my first attempt at the LEJOG record, I completely overhauled my nutrition. In short, I went from a largely fluid diet, relying on energy powders and gels, to more of a focus on real food for energy and electrolytes or weaker carb mixes for hydration, and from an obsession with carbs per hour, to a more balanced approach based on calorie intake with fat and even protein playing a role too.
What are your favourite items of kit for training and events?
My number one kit item is my Wahoo EleMNT. At first when I started riding I just had a simple cycling computer that only showed distance, speed and cadence. Buying a GPS cycling computer transformed my cycling. I no longer had to worry about losing the rest of the group on club rides and not finding my way home, I could go out on longer solo explorations and discover lanes and roads I wouldn’t have known how to get to otherwise. I first had a Garmin, but after multiple failures on several units, I switched to Wahoo and never looked back. The EleMNT is totally reliable and has a far longer battery life too, which is good for my long rides.
My next favourite kit are my Isobar Compression calf guards. They keep my legs strong and happy during long races and training rides. They give an extra layer of warmth under long bib tights during the winter, but (in white) equally provide nice cooling when riding/racing in hot conditions.
My last favourite bit of kit is my ‘Be The Egg’ cap. It helps to keep rain and some of the sweat out of my face and the words help me to find resilience and grit when the going gets tough on longer rides.
Are you sponsored by anyone at the moment?
I don’t have any large sponsors for the big items such as a bike or wheels, but I am lucky to have support from a few amazing smaller companies, including Precision Hydration, Isobar Compression, Forth Edge, Le Col, USE Exposure Lights, RawVelo, LondonRoadBikeRepairs and Sigma Sports. Plus AMION Consulting, my employers, who have given me time and space to achieve both my work and cycling goals, and have given a cash injection to help realise this record attempt.
Kingston Wheelers, my local cycling club, are supporting me in various ways, including warning lights for the cars and stop watches for the official timekeeping. Some of my crew members are also club mates and generally the club has been incredibly supportive and helpful. Some of my other crew members are also sponsors. For example, Rob Lee is my coach but also a sponsor, the same applies to Josephine Perry , Nick Evans and Sonja Whatson, who came along as a photographer last year and continues to look after the website this year.
Do you see yourself branching out to even longer events in the future?
I’m keen to try longer multi-day or even multi-week unsupported cycling races such as the 2500km TransAtlanticWay or the 4000km Transcontinental. I will need to get a different bike and wheels for that, along with all the bikepacking equipment, but I think some of my long distance Audax/randonnee events have already prepared me a bit for this kind of racing. A fitting start would be the 1600km Race Around the Netherlands in May 2019. What better place to start a new chapter in my cycling endeavours than the country where I first learned to ride a bike?!
In August 2019 I will ride Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200km long distance cycling event and am involved with an initiative to help get 2019 women to the start line.
Ultimately, I would like my cycling challenges to be about more than my own passion and achievements. I want to inspire other people (men and women) to push their own boundaries and will continue to raise funds for Cancer Research each time I step it up another notch. Last year, me and the crew raised nearly £3,700. This year we hope to top that up to £5000. It would make me very happy and grateful if there are any readers who want to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lejogrecord
What’s on the horizon for you for the rest of 2018?
There isn’t anything else on the horizon for 2018. Before I can seriously think of other challenges, I really need to get LEJOG out of my system first. Once I have achieved this dream – or at least given it my best shot – I will allow myself to dream bigger still. If there’s any money or annual leave left at the end of the year, I may make another trip to California for the World 24 Hour TT Championships in November 2018, but perhaps some quality time with my husband is really what is called for by then.
I am blessed with the help and support from some amazing friends and family, but I am acutely aware that there are limits to time, money and goodwill – even from my incredibly supportive but non-cycling husband, who has a life and dreams of his own too. If I were to continue along the path of ever longer supported events, the Race Across America would probably be somewhere on the horizon (despite the prohibitive cost). It does appeal to me, but an around the world record (be it supported or unsupported) will probably never happen as I am pretty sure I will come back to find I no longer have a job or a husband – both are more important to me than my cycling!
You can follow Jasmijn’s cycling and LEJOG attempt by visiting her challenge website, https://www.lejogrecord.co.uk, her own website, www.duracellbunnyonabike.com, and by following her on social media via www.twitter.com/jasmijnmuller1, www.twitter.com/lejogrecord and www.instagram.com/jasmijnmuller.